Popped Culture

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Musical History of Labor Hero Joe Hill at First Congo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:11 PM

Regular Joe.
  • Regular Joe.
And when Joe looked back at the sweat upon his tracks
He had nothing to show but his age
He
had nothing to show but his age - Phil Ochs - "Ballad of Joe Hill."

This week at First Congo, Nashville's Shelby Bottom String Band provides the music for a multimedia history of early 20th-century folk singer and union organizer Joe Hill and a discussion about art and activism in the Trump era.

Hill was an immigrant, but in the early decades of the 20th-Century there wasn't a native-born worker in America who couldn't relate to the stories he told in his songs. In addition to giving American labor its marching music, Hill became the movement's patron saint when he was cut down by a firing squad for a murder he almost certainly didn't commit.

Last words: ""Fire — go on and fire!"


It's a pay what you can event, Wednesday, March 15th at 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. First Congregational Church, 1000 South Cooper. For additional details, click here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Corker Describes Trump as a "Wrecking Ball"

Day Officially Ruined

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 11:28 AM

Yes, “Wrecking ball.” That’s the expression Tennessee Senator Bob Corker used to describe President Donald Trump, in a recent interview for Politico. Corker’s intention was to describe the flailing President as a powerful leader wrestling with destructive foreign policy urges. He didn’t mean to make us all imagine what Trump might look like naked in a Miley Cyrus video.

Thanks, Bob. 
If that wasn't enough, Corker also wants to "massage" Trump's "nuggets." No, he actually said that.
  • If that wasn't enough, Corker also wants to "massage" Trump's "nuggets." No, he actually said that.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Little Joe Gives It Away: A Conversation with Joe Dallesandro

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Joe
  • Joe
So you're not that into Warhol, and the name Joe Dallesandro is unfamiliar? That's his crotch on the cover of The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers LP. More of a Smiths fan? That's his torso on the cover of the band's first record. Lou Reed called him "Little Joe" in his hit song, "Walk on the Wild Side." You know Joe, or parts of him anyway.

Dallesandro, the only Warhol superstar to have any significant film career outside the factory, is coming to the Brooks Museum of Art to talk to fans. Fly on the Wall talked to him first about the Warhol/Morrissey trilogy Heat, Trash, and Flesh. working with Louis Malle, and Serge Gainsbourg, and what it means to be told you changed male sexuality on film forever. .

Fly on the Wall: When you first started working with Paul Morrissey, part of the allure — as I understand it — is Paul told you these films would still be shown in museums in a hundred years. I know it’s not been that long, but what’s it like living through the hype, and watching that promise, more or less prove true.

Joe Dallesandro: No, no surprise as it started appearing in the way he had said. It was kinda for me something I believed to be true back then, and it was beginning to happen. There was nothing I thought was real special because I always expected it to be that way. Having seen all the different work Andy had. And even back then he was doing tours at universities and things.

I felt that what he told me was the truth, and they were already doing tours at universities. So the next step was these things went to museums.


I read somewhere a quote by John Waters. Something about how you changed male sexuality on film forever. And so much else has been said in that regard. What’s it like living with those kinds of comments?

I always thought of Paul Morrissey as my mentor. Paul told me early on, I can't look at the press because if I take to heart the good and the appreciation, I have to take to heart the bad things, too." It was enjoyable to hear all that. But it was just the many opinions and sayings of people who were out there. I love John Waters. Anything he said was appreciated. I look at him as a personal friend. It’s not like I’d expect him to say something bad about me like Paul or Andy.

Why were they talking bad about you?

Back in those days, after I finished the trilogy with them I was pretty much kind of fed up for a while because they started to say bad things about me. I was being looked at in productions that were bigger and different than there’s in the real world. I remember reading somewhere that Andy’d said, “Oh, I think he does drugs.” And Paul told someone, “I don’t believe he could learn a script. So, when I went to do Frankenstein and Dracula with them, I made them write every line I had to say. Because it pissed me off they didn’t think I could do a script. I was never offered to do a script with them before.


But you hadn’t had experience with that kind of film. Or any kind of film, you just fell into it. Unlike a lot of the others who started this way, you put together a career.

It was Paul’s saying, he thought I’d be good at it. And just to do it. And everything he’s telling me— He’s like a book on cinema. He knew everything about actors and the movies. You could call him up and ask him anything and he had the information on it. So, when he’d say he thought I’d be good at it, I trusted what he was telling me was the truth. Back then I was a real young kid so people made impressions on me back then. Back then I wanted to be a cook and make pizzas. I wanted to own my own pizza shop one day. That was my big dream back when I was a kid. But things change.
I trusted what Paul was saying to me was the truth and I was getting a lot of press.

There were the movies I did with Paul and the movies that I did with Andy. Andy’s movies, whoever talked the fastest and the most was the lead in the movie. There was no story to it, it was just whatever was interesting to Andy that went in the movie. The first time I met him he was sitting behind a camera reading a newspaper and we couldn’t see him because he had the newspaper up. And he was turning the camera on and off. And you’d hear a giggle or a laugh from behind the newspaper, and then his hand would come out and he’d switch the camera on and off. Really strange, peculiar guy.

And an odd artistic partner for Paul, a number of people have noted.

Paul always was trying to shift him in a different direction in the way he made his films. To put more of a story to it. To use the people in a more interesting way. This is back when Paul had the greatest eye for casting, because he’d pick these peculiar people, and they were very interesting, and they had a knack for being able to tell stories and stuff. Until we went to Europe and he’d get people who just spoke to him briefly in English. Then, come to find out, they didn’t speak well enough to improvise their lines. So it was kinda good I said I wanted things written for me. They had to write things for the other people too.

And he’s shooting in an environment he doesn’t approve of.

He was always trying, in some way, to change those people. Get them to go in a different direction than what they were doing. He’d get really upset with Andrea [Feldman]. He wanted her to be normal. But Andrea was just Andrea.

And Andy...

Andy wouldn’t know my name when I came into the office. My brother was his chauffeur and drove him around all day long. Would come back telling me all these stories and conversations they talked about in the car. He chose who he talked to, who he spoke to and listened to. People I guess he thought were entertaining. And there were people that he didn’t. I was one of those people he didn’t speak to very much. I used to think he was just afraid of me. That’s why they had me up there guarding the door or something. I always got the impression they wanted me almost like a bodyguard, or somebody that scared people away: “Andy’s not here today.” When he’s here in the back.

But of everybody, you kept on making movies.

I went over to Italy with the idea I’d come back Clint Eastwood, but it didn’t happen that way. I was too short for a horse.


But you made some action movies.

I made all these shoot ‘em up films.

Did you know you were going to stay in Europe when you went over to do Frankenstein and Dracula, or did all that happen while you were there.

They were already offered to me by the time I finished Frankenstein and Dracula. Paul set it up so I’d do movies over there.

And I don’t know a thing about them— about the Italian films. They were like gangster films, right?

Bad boy gangster films. I’m the guy who was selling cigarettes for the higher ups, but then wanted to take over and do it for myself. They made a bunch of those lower budgeted ones over there. They would shoot them pretty fast. They were all like that, back to back. I swore off artists when I got to Italy. But the manager who helped me over there because Italian wasn’t my language, and I had to have somebody to interpret for me. I remember telling them I didn’t want to work with art directors. I just wanted to do shoot-em-ups/And he said, “No, no, no, no, you came from working with Andy, you have to continue working with art directors. So I continued working with art directors in France.

Louis Malle. Serge Gainsbourg.

Who?

Serge Gainsbourg.

Oh, yeah, Serge.

He was already established as a musician, but Je t'aime moi non plus  was his first film, and he’s writing, and directing. And it just looks like everybody is comfortable, and having a great time. Is that just my impression, or is that accurate?

That’s accurate. I believe it was Serge. He had an openness about him. I didn’t know if it was because he drank a lot or what, but we all had a really great time doing the film. I became a good friend of Serge after that. I don’t usually stay connected, I move on. It’s family when you’re doing it, then you move on. That’s how it is in a film, you’re family. But Serge was a great guy.

sticky.jpg
Do you have a favorite film.

Oh, Je t'aime. When it was done, Serge wanted a bigger showing here [in America]. Not sent out to some odd theater. He wanted a big release. I believe it was a little too early. People weren’t there yet. But the material was great material. And it was beautiful to look at.

Yes, with the aerial shots. A really playful camera.

When I did Louis Malle film it was great to work on that too. When I saw the film, my son, who was still young, loved the it. He just loved it. So I saw it a couple of times. But I didn’t see the colors. We spent a lot of time with the lighting, and it wasn’t what I expected from his talent. But it was a fun film.

Je t'aime  was certainly colorful. I think of the truck.

They asked if I drove a truck, and I was thinking a little pickup truck. I get there and it’s this big Mack truck with two gear shifts and air brakes. Holy shit. And the first shot they want me to drive up to a plate glass window with her behind and stop. And I thought everybody’s gonna run away because they don’t know if I’m going to stop in time. Our cameraman was one of the craziest, bravest guys I ever knew. There was a shot he wanted to do from a plane and he was hanging outside the plane to get the shot. That was just his way of doing things. And I loved Gerard [Depardieu]. He was doing a movie in Italy and would fly in on the weekends to shoot these small scenes with us. And he was so much fun. Everybody walked the extra mile to make the film look good, like it was in the midwest and shot in America.

It would be wrong of me to not ask something about. Sticky Fingers. The Smiths. Lou Reed and “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” You didn’t even know Lou when he wrote about “Little Joe,” is that correct.


That’s correct. None of those things had nothing to do with me. With the Smiths album, [Smiths singer Morrissey] was a fan, and I don't think he asked anybody for permission. He just used the picture. Sticky Fingers, the crotch shot could have been anybody. The only reason I know it was me is because of my belt. With "Walk on the Wild Side," that was Paul Morrissey telling Lou he should watch some films they'd been doing and write about the people in them. He wrote about the character he saw on screen. It wasn't like he was socializing with us."


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Memphis Gets a Shout Out From Joss Whedon and a Beautiful Artist's Diary

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 12:47 PM

unnamed.jpg
Thumbing through Twitter last night I noticed a tweet from Mr. Avengers director, Joss Whedon that read, "this THIS this." It linked to a graphic essay about the contemporary political landscape, and lessons that might be learned from Memphis. So I clicked.

You'll want to click too.

Artist Christopher Noxon wasn't prepared for what he found at the Civil Rights Museum and was moved to share his experience.

What happened on Mulberry St. was foundation-shaking. What's grown up in the shadow of tragedy contains a blueprint of dissent — a map to freedom.  

It's still inspiring people.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

It's Sex Pistols Taco Bell Day in Memphis. Eat a Burrito

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 10:47 AM

God save the Mexican Pizza.
  • God save the Mexican Pizza.
Every year on this day Fly on the Wall invites readers to take a spin down scenic Union Ave. and stop in for a seven layer burrito at the Taco Bell where the other Taco Bell used to be. See, before the first Taco Bell was erected on that site, 1447 Union was home to the Taliesyn Ballroom. And on Jan 6, 1978 the original, imploding, disaster-bound Sex Pistols played one of their few U.S. dates. It was a big night in the cradle of Rock-and-Roll, a psychobilly hotbed with its own notable punk history.  

The Pistols show was documented, a nifty, noisy listen. Crank it up in the car on this beautiful snow day and celebrate punk the way it was meant to be celebrated — with a greasy sack of cheap, mass-produced food product laden with calories and colonialism.

Last year this Taco Bell (where the other, more authentic Taco Bell used to be) was still playing canned Christmas music. Punk as hell.
 
Be careful out there.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Home Horror Movies: A 10-Year Halloween Tradition

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 9:00 AM

10-year-old girls think this completely inappropriate title is hilarious.
  • 10-year-old girls think this completely inappropriate title is hilarious.
"Why must it always end in ketchup?"

It's a great line, and my weird family says it all the time. Well, we don't really say it so much as we overact it. It's the angst-ridden cry we unleash when things go wrong. Especially when things go wrong in ridiculous ways — "WHY MUST IT ALWAYS END IN KETCHUP?"  The phrase was coined by my effortlessly absurd daughter Josie, as she prepared to shoot a gore-spattered scene in our very first family zombie movie, Attack of the Bloody Hand, starring her and her fraternal twin, Lucy.

I'm an open book on social media, but, tend to keep family life out of my columns. Today I'm breaking that rule because it's Halloween, and, at the risk of seeming self-indulgent,  I want to share the family tradition that brought this beautifully bloody catchphrase into our lives.
Shot on location, when old Ozymandias was just around the corner.
  • Shot on location, when old Ozymandias was just around the corner.
I've been making homemade monster movies with my daughters for 10 years now. We've made Sci-Fi flicks too. And at least one swashbuckler. But it's mostly horror because we do it in October, usually the week before Halloween. We have rules too, to make sure things never get too expensive or serious. It's an imagination game, not about set-building. The shoot takes place in our house, but can spill out into the yard, and immediate neighborhood. We have a $20 budget, but can sometimes splurge on an item if it's just that cool, or we know we'll use more than once. Shooting has to be completed in one day, and the whole project has to be completed before Halloween.

I'm not a filmmaker, and don't pretend to be one. This isn't fancy stuff— It shouldn't be about that. Our 5 to 15-minute flickers are all lit with natural light and flashlights. They are costumed from closets, shot on Flips and iPhones, and edited in iMovie. Sometimes we make our own special effects and write our own soundtrack music, but we also truck in parody, mixing  in clips and sounds from horror classics. It's the sort of thing  anybody can do with tech they carry in their pocket, and as stupidly fun family traditions go, I can't recommend it enough.

Prepare yourself now for the macabre in miniature — Ten years of highly collaborative short movies made with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14-year olds.  We're not Hammer, or Universal exactly. But on a good day we can at least compete with Eegah! 

1. The Robbers: It's about pirates, but the girls wanted to call it The Robbers. I don't think we really planned this, but just kind of fell into it while playing with toy swords at the park. Little did we realize this was the beginning of something completely ridiculous. This chase sequence is shot in a small format, and it's sometimes hard to hear. We get better.


2. Three Against the Sky: Costarring their friend Avery, this movie found three little girls saving the universe from a three-headed, lightning-breathing dragon, and flying saucers. Lots of pure joy in this one.


3. Attack of the Bloody Hand: We didn't know it at the time that Attack of the Bloody Hand would be part of a trilogy. Part three, in fact. Though shot out of order the three parts of The Bloody Hand Trilogy are The Ancient Evil Mummy, Ancient Evil From Before the Dawn of Time, and Attack of the Bloody Hand. Trivia: There's no bloody hand in chapter one, The Ancient Evil Mummy. The last one — which is also the first one —is a zombie flick with some familiar horror movie music.


4. The Wolfing: I have no idea what we were doing here. Werewolf movie? Bergman parody? Just hanging out on Saturday?


5. The Ancient Evil Mummy: What happens when you unlock the secrets of Cleopatra's closet? Part 1 in The Bloody Hand Trilogy. Also, a lot of fun. So glad we shot this while the Ramses II statue was still at the Pyramid.

6. Invaders From Uranus: This is an homage to a popular Twilight Zone episode starring Endora, and Earth vs the Flying Saucers. The twins, had just started playing musical instruments (and a band with featured friend Janie). So they wanted to try making some of their own soundtrack music. Who knew monsters could be destroyed by tween rock?

7. Ancient Evil From Before the Dawn of Time: In the past we'd written outlines and just made stuff up as we went along. Here Lucy emerges as a strong writing collaborator, with a real sense for Lovecraftian dread. The girls add a nifty original song to the soundtrack— "Shooting Star." This is part 2 in The Bloody Hand Trilogy.

8. The Devil Doll: Inspired by the scariest part of Trilogy of Terror. More Josie & Lucy songs too.

9. Bride of Boggy Creek: This one's inspired by the Bigfoot cheapie The Legend of Boggy Creek and also by The Blair Witch Project. It's the funniest of the bunch, and probably my favorite. The twins had just discovered Drunk History and borrowed some of that show's storytelling techniques. No, there wasn't any booze involved, but you wouldn't know from all the giggling. Featuring a ukulele remake of the original Boggy Creek theme song.

10. Three Against the Sky 2: This year's project is a cease and desist letter waiting to happen. It should have been a 10-year extravaganza, but became one of our least ambitious efforts due to a number of unforeseen obstacles cutting into our planning time. This is a sequel/remake and, at the very least, it's nice watching little heroes grow up. There are flashbacks, and a lot of pure joy in this one too.
 
Thanks for enduring that. I won't post anymore backyard movies of my kids until we've been doing this for 20-years. In the meantime, I'd love to see other people pick up this tradition. I'll happily publish homemade horror movies here at Fly on the Wall every Halloween. They don't have to be good, they just have to look like they were a lot of fun to make.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Former Memphian David Gest is Dead at 62

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 12:42 PM

davidgestpa.jpg
David Gest is dead. The American producer, and the former Mr. Liza Minnelli who became a British reality TV star, was found dead Tuesday morning in his room at the Four Seasons hotel in Canary Wharf, London. He was 62.

Gest is one of those special people who is primarily famous for being famous. He had been friends with Michael Jackson, and was still technically married to Liza when he took up residence not a stone's throw from the Flyer's Tennessee St. offices. Before jumping across the pond to try his hand at shows like "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" Guest lived in Memphis' South Bluffs community, and was often seen puttering about Downtown, or chowing down on fried chicken at Gus's. He could also be seen in Midtown, East Memphis, and other parts of the city where, in spite of a professed desire for anonymity, his face was blown up larger than life, and split into two halves on billboards promoting the man and his various initiatives.  

On November 20, 2006, the Flyer received a transcontinental phone call from the London Sun, a daily Rupert-Murdoch-owned tabloid that was looking to hire a fearless reporter who could get to the bottom of a hot story that was taking Europe by storm. Longtime Flyer columnist and reporter John Branston took the call but not the job. According to a blog post Branston wrote later that same morning, the Sun wanted someone to visit Gest's house to confirm a story he'd shared with the British media about a maid he kept on staff in Memphis named "Vagina Semen" — a name that was later revised to the slightly less graphic "Vaginika Semen." The Sun needed confirmation.

When reality TV gets real.
  • When reality TV gets real.
"We are so NOT making this up," Branston wrote. "Stay tuned."

Memphis has known its share of eccentrics, but few have been more wondered about than Gest, who upon growing weary of his life in big cities (and the tabloids), tried to escape all the notoriety by moving to our sleepy little river town where he fancied buying, "a very small, intimate luxury hotel with a ballroom on the top of it," but never did. 

In 2004, after weeks of trying to score an interview for an article about him and a charitable event he was planning, Gest told me to meet him at the Peabody Hotel. He kept me waiting for an uncomfortably long time, but he did show up eventually, and we chatted over a plate of batter-fried veggies and cheese.

Here's the original Q&A from Dec. 3, 2004.

The Two Faces of David Gest

"There's another David Gest, and I'd really like to meet him. The one you read about is fascinating, wild, weird, and wonderful, and I don't really think of myself in any of those ways. I never intended to be a personality. I went for years [behind the scenes] as a producer. Then [I produced] Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary] special. That's when I fell in love and everything changed. Things changed after my wedding and after my life with Liza."

— David Gest, at The Peabody, November 29, 2004

He's on a diet and he's had cosmetic surgery. He's good friends with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson (who has had cosmetic surgery, is probably not on a diet, but has other troubles with which to contend). He's married to Liza Minnelli (whose diets, surgeries, and other troubles are well-known), but they are separated and suing one another. He says she got raging drunk and beat him to the point of disability. She says he swindled her knock-kneed.

These are the things you already know about music producer David Gest, if you know anything about him at all. And since these stories have been blown out in the supermarket rags and on tabloid TV, there's really no point in repeating any of it, now is there?

Gest lives in Memphis now, on the south side of downtown near the river. And he wants to make sure that every Memphian who is hungry, cold, old, infirm, lonely, or down on his luck has a nice dinner waiting for them at various Memphis restaurants on Christmas Day. He's promised participating restaurants money up front and is willing to fund it out of his own pockets. But he'd prefer to pay for the whole shebang by way of a star-studded shindig at the Cannon Center: David Gest's All-Star Holiday Extravaganza.

"So I'm only bringing 40 or 50 artists to town," Gest says, countering criticisms that many of the celebrities he's used to promote the event won't be attending. "Who else is bringing four?"

And who else is offering a free Christmas dinner to anybody who shows up and says "I'm David's Gest" at Corky's, Gus', Willie Moore's, the High Point Café, Westy's, Precious Cargo, Neely's, or Ray's? Whether you love to hate him or hate to love him, David Gest is in the house. He's roaming downtown Memphis, performing random acts of kindness, offering up the moon and determined to deliver some stars.

Flyer: Where were you and what were you doing when it occurred to you that you would be moving to Memphis?

David Gest: I was living in Hawaii and suffering from a brain concussion, and somehow I just dreamed about living on the Mississippi River. I always had an affinity for Memphis. It was something that I felt like I needed at this time in my life — to be away from the paparazzi and not to be someone who's always in the tabloids. I wanted to buy a home that was facing the river, and I did. In my life I've learned you've got to go with your gut. I wanted to live in the South. I felt that I could go to Memphis and make records and do things. I can always fly to L.A. or to New York. And I like living in a small town. It agrees with me.

But what was the specific allure of Memphis?

I was — I think — 17 and I was a journalist when I first came here. It was 1971, and I came to Memphis for a rock-and-roll writers' convention. Everybody got to go to Stax and to Hi Studios. There was a big reception at the Holiday Inn Rivermont, which was the hotel back then. You'd see Rufus Thomas walking around in hot-pants promoting "The Funky Chicken." You'd see all the great Memphis artists there. And all of this had a really strong effect on me, so I kept coming back. About two years later, I was offered the job of national public relations director for London Records. I was supposed to be 21, but I'd just turned 19. I lied about my age. I had a thick, thick Afro that went down to my butt and a moustache and a beard, so I looked older. You know when you're a kid you always want to look older. Then you get old and you want to look much younger. When you get to my age — which is 51 — you start to go, Unh-unh.

That was when you started doing PR for Al Green.

Yes, I did public relations and career guidance for Al Green. [He] was the biggest thing at the time. I did the publicity campaign for [Ann Peebles' hit] "I Can't Stand the Rain." You know, I was the one who had John Lennon come to the Troubadour [an L.A. club where Peebles was performing] on the night he wore the Kotex on his forehead. He was really drunk, and he was screaming, "Annie, baby, I love you! Annie, baby, I wanna, I wanna " And then he asked the waitress, "Do you know who I am?" And she said, "You're an asshole with a Kotex on your forehead." They kicked him out of the Troubadour that night. But he loved "I Can't Stand the Rain." It was his favorite record.

How often were you in Memphis back then?

I'd be here every three to four months. I'd fly in and work with Quiet Elegance, or maybe Ace Cannon, and others. I gave a party in 1977. It was called "Moonlight on the Mississippi in Memphis." It was a party on a riverboat for the Doobie Brothers. Jerry Lee Lewis was there and Rufus Thomas, Ann Peebles, Carla Thomas, the Memphis Horns. It seemed like everybody was on that boat, and it was a jam all night.

Is it true that you recently gave an elderly woman who was shopping at the MIFA thrift store $100 to buy a coat?


Yes. I loved this lady's face. She was 70 or 80. The sweetest little woman you've ever seen. She came up to me and she said, "I love you." And I said, "Well, I love you." She'd seen me on Larry King a few times, and she said, "I think it's wonderful what you're doing for the community." And so I asked her what she was doing, and she said, "I'm buying a coat." I said, "Let me buy you a coat." I went in with her to shop, but she couldn't find the right coat, so I said, "Here's a hundred dollars. Go buy yourself something." She was sweet. I have no idea what her name was.

When you moved to Memphis did you know that you would be producing a celebrity gala and trying to provide Christmas dinner for 100,000 disadvantaged people?

No. In fact, when I moved here, I'd decided that I really wasn't well enough to start working again. Then one day I saw this man on the street and he said he had no food and he needed $7 for shelter. He said, "I've got no place to go not even for Christmas." I asked, "What do you do on Christmas?" and he said, "I beg for food."

I thought, I'm going to put on a show. I'll call my friends and put together a concert so that on that one day a year people can eat for free. [Even with the benefit concert] it's probably going to cost me money to feed all of these people. I'll underwrite it. What's important is seeing results.

Is Memphis now your home or is it just a pit-stop?

Home. I'm going to buy a hotel. I'm in the process of buying a property and building a very small, intimate luxury hotel with a ballroom on the top of it. It's something I want to do with some of my friends. With all these artists coming in because of the FedExForum, there's a need for something like that here.

Have Memphians encouraged your plans to feed 100,000 people on Christmas, or have they been cynical?

A little bit of both. Some people are jealous. Some people would like to see me not succeed. But I will succeed regardless of any obstacles. I will thrive. People can say what they want, but the doubters are going to see this happen in Memphis.

There was recently news that many of the artists scheduled to perform at the benefit concert wouldn't actually attend. How many have confirmed?

Tons have confirmed. It's going to be phenomenal. We're going to have the full band from Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary special. And to give you some idea [of what's in store], Kim Weston, who had a hit with "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)" in the '60s is going to sing that song with the Doobie Brothers who also had a hit with it in the '70s. They are going to be accompanied by a 200-member gospel choir. It's really going to be phenomenal."
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Questions Raised By Billy Joel's "Piano Man"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 1:43 PM

What is Billy Joel pointing at?
  • What is Billy Joel pointing at?
Billy Joel is making a rare Memphis appearance next week. And, as Memphis prepares for the wave of Billymania sure to sweep through the ranks of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who are really into him, we take time to reflect on Joel’s signature song, Piano Man. The iconic tune is filled with enigmas and mysteries. And perhaps riddles. The point is, we have the questions. Perhaps you have the answers.

1. How does one make love to a tonic and gin? Or any other beverage?

2. Who has ever used the phrase “I knew it complete.”

3. When the old man says he knew the song when he wore a younger man’s clothes, does he simply mean he knew it when he was younger, or did he murder some guy, steal his clothes, and sing a sad and sweet song? Why does the old man talk in this affected manner?

4.Is John a good bartender? He doles out free drinks, which can’t be good for business, right?

5. Is John a good actor? Could he, indeed, be a movie star? Has he tried acting? Or does he just think that, on the strength of his ability to quickly light cigarettes and tell jokes he could be a movie star? Even if he can’t get out of that place (for whatever reason, perhaps this is an indictment of the nation’s refusal to adopt a country-wide rail system), he could try acting at some level, don’t you think? Maybe take a class.

6. What kind of politics is the waitress practicing? Is she Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or perhaps Tea Party? Should she be getting political in a bar? It seems a dangerous tactic as she shouldn’t want to offend a potential tipper.

7. Why are the businessmen getting stoned in the bar? Drunk, sure. But stoned? This seems legally ill advised, unless the bar is in Amsterdam. Or Colorado.


8.
Who is sharing a drink called loneliness. Is it just the businessmen? Or is the waitress also somehow involved? Is that wise? And is it actually better than drinking alone? Depends on the other businessmen, I suppose.

9. What the hell is a real estate novelist? Does real estate novelling actually eat up so much time that you can’t find a wife? I think Paul just didn’t really want one and uses that as an excuse.

10. Which would explain why he’s talking to Davy, who conveniently for rhyming purposes, is in the Navy.

11. I understand why the microphone smells like a beer. As we’ve established, John gives Bill free beers, so it’s no wonder that the mic smells of free beer. But how does a piano sound like a carnival? Is he just playing that clown song over and over again? You know the one. They always play it at circuses. If that’s the case, I do not understand why the bar retains Bill. Unless it is a clown bar. Which would be awesome, but unlikely, as real estate novelists hate clowns.

12. Is it appropriate to tip musicians with bread? Maybe it is in a clown bar.

13. When the crowd asks Bill “Man, what are you doing here?” is it because he keeps playing that carnival song, and is not actually hired by the bar? If so, John really shouldn’t give him free drinks.

Joey Hack is a member of the Wiseguys Improv troupe and a kind of regular contributor to Fly on the Wall.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Memphis Heat Soundtrack is Hot Stuff

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 5:33 PM

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I suppose the Flyer's other Chrises — film editor McCoy and music editor Shaw — will be writing about this in the days and weeks to come. But since FOTW works the local wrestling beat, it seemed appropriate to break the news here. The creative team behind Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin' is celebrating the documentary's 5-year anniversary with a March 24th screening at MALCO's Cinema Paradiso that doubles as an official release party for the film's previously unavailable soundtrack. Serious vinyl nerds will want to know that the handsome blood red platter was the first disc cut on Phillips Recording's newly refurbished record lathe. But that's just trivia. The Doug Easley-produced tracks — often introduced with sound bytes from the movie — are all pretty fantastic too.

The record opens with a clip of Superstar Bill Dundee explaining the meaning of heat: "Heat is when they don't like ya." The Superstar's definition transitions perfectly into "Black Knight," a full throttle scorcher by River City Tanlines. It's an excellent start to a disc as offbeat and entertaining as the film that inspired it.  


"Black Knight," is also the only track on the entire record that wasn't created expressly for Memphis Heat. What follows is a series of punchy instrumentals that will do the same thing for your ass they do for the film: Make it move. 

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This is probably my favorite (mostly) original Memphis movie soundtrack since Impala scored Mike McCarthy's Teenage Tupelo. The tracks, recorded by a clutch of Memphis' finest players, have a vintage feel and walk such a fine line between joyous and sleazy they may remind some listeners of the Las Vegas Grind series. 

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Good stuff. 


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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

When "Whole Oats" Opened for Bowie in Memphis

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 at 1:17 PM

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There's an old adage stating that the three hardest dates for a musician are, in order, "Christmas, Easter, and Memphis." Few things illustrate the point like this review of David Bowie's first Bluff City concert. Commercial Appeal reporter Joe M. Dove wasn't merely unimpressed by the Spiders from Mars. He described Bowie's 1972 concert at Ellis Auditorium's North Hall as, "mostly noise."

And get off my lawn!
  • And get off my lawn!

"David Bowie probably could be a talented musician," Dove wrote in a merciless review of the concert. "But his show is not selling music. He has substituted noise for music, freaky stage gimmicks for talent, and covers it all up with volume." The writer had been led to believe The Spiders were, "a ballad group," and was surprised to discover an artist capable of "out-freaking Alice Cooper on stage." His harshest lines, however, were reserved for an opening act identified as Whole Oats:

At the least, Bowie's show can objectively be called better than that of his warm-up group, "Whole Oats", a country rock quartet.

Playing all of their eight numbers in a simple four-four time, the group could not even keep the attention of the crowd which spent much time milling up and down the aisles and tossing several plastic Frisbees.

One of "Whole Oats" final numbers was titled "I'm sorry." It should have been dedicated to the audience.

So, whatever happened to this forgettable straight time-obsessed country rock quartet slammed by critics and ignored by frisbee crazed Memphians? Nothing happened to them. Because the quartet never existed. The detestable act was, in fact, Daryl Hall & John Oates who went on to become the most successful pop duo in history.

"Whole Oats" isn't a typo. Dove didn't get available facts wrong, exactly. Daryl & John were new on the scene and preparing to release their first Atlantic Records LP. 

"We'd like to dedicate this song to the audience," said Daryl Hall never. 

Before the duo signed with Atlantic they'd also named their partnership "Whole Oats." So, when the label released a promotional single for the forthcoming album,"Whole Oats" is the name the company went with. The group was identified as Daryl Hall & John Oates when their debut album Whole Oats was released in November, 1972, only two months after the Bowie concert. For the period between the promotional release and the official release, "Whole Oats" it was. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WHOLE OATS!
  • Ladies and gentlemen, Whole Oats!

Memphis was apparently one of H&O's first stops on the way up. Nobody noticed. Even Ron Hall's fantastic concert history Memphis Rocks doesn't clarify the listing, identifying Bowie's opening act only as Whole Oats. 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Naughty Santa on Germantown Parkway

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 4:30 PM

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Perhaps you've seen a video of the inflatable Santa that went face down on Germantown Parkway last week. But have you seen a video of the inflatable Santa that went down on Germantown Parkway last week with 70's porn music in the background? I thought not. 


Friday, November 13, 2015

Frosty's Got a Gun

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2015 at 2:38 PM

Frosty's got a gun
His whole world's come undone
  From lookin' straight at the sun
"Frosty's Got a Gun" Aerosmith of Earth 2

Have you ever stopped to think about some of the things that go on in the popular holiday song "Frosty the Snowman?" Like that part where Frosty leads the children down the streets of town right to a traffic cop. And he "Only paused a moment when he heard him holler, 'STOP!'"


Have you ever wondered how Frosty could just flat out ignore a policeman's direct order and get away with it? Well, he's white, obviously, but that's only part of the story. What we didn't know until this ad for Bass Pro's $49.99 holiday inflatables came out: Frosty, the "happy, jolly soul" immortalized in song, is also seven feet tall and packing major heat. 

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It's all visions of sugar plums till the snowmen fight back

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Zombie Piano-Tuning Movie, Now Available Online

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 4:29 PM

Ready for my closeup.
  • Ready for my closeup.

Have you ever wanted to see your Pesky Fly do a bad Charles Kuralt impersonation in a movie about capitalism, apocalypse, and zombie piano tuners? If so, your weird, weird ship has finally come in. After finishing its national film festival tour, Songs in the Key of Death has come home to Memphis and is now available online. I'm embedding the trailer below, but the full movie— all 14-glorious minutes of it— can be watched here. Enjoy.  


Other Memphis-based entertainment media featured in this Edward Valibus short include the Commercial Appeal's Jon Sparks, and Mz. Checking-on-the-Arts, Kacky Walton.

Seems like a pretty good gamble on publicity, no?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ten "Go Set a Watchman" Spoilers Guaranteed to Spoil Your "Go Set a Watchman" Experience

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 10:44 AM

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SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ!!! THIS LIST IS NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF SPOILERS!!! THAT WILL SPOIL YOUR READING EXPERIENCE!!! IF YOU READ THEM!!!


1. In her new novel Go Set a Watchman author Harper Lee gives Atticus Finch breasts

2. In Harper Lee's new novel Atticus Finch drives a red Miata.
3. The new Harper Lee novel gives Atticus Finch a talking dog named Mr. Rumples.
 4. In Harper Lee's new novel, Atticus Finch is played by Jack Black.
5. In the new Harper Lee novel Atticus Finch loses his fight with Apollo Creed, but wins our hearts.
6. In the new Harper Lee novel Atticus Finch reveals himself to be Sucitta Hcnif, a shape shifting half-demon from the funk dimension. He claims he was sent here to, "funking get down."
7. In the new Harper Lee novel Atticus Finch has a Prince Albert piercing.
8. The new Harper Lee novel gives Atticus Finch a lightsaber.
9. In the new Harper Lee novel Atticus Finch is a little too into Sleater Kinny.
10. The new Harper Lee novel gives Atticus Finch a pretext for war with Sweden.


BONUS: In Harper Lee's  new novel Atticus Finch ruins everything for everybody, especially English teachers. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas: Elvis Hologram Duets with Iggy Azalea's Bottom.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 10:15 AM

It's supposed to be a hologram of Elvis, but it looks more like Aloha Johnny Cash. Also, Snowgirl Iggy poots.
  • It's supposed to be a hologram of Elvis, but it looks more like Aloha Johnny Cash. Also, Snowgirl Iggy poots.

In case you missed it, Elvis made an appearance in South Park’s 2014 Christmas extravaganza, sort of. The cartoon featured an animated version of an Elvis hologram singing “Holly Jolly Christmas” with Iggy Azalea’s flatulent bottom, decorated to look like a snowman. South Park’s Cartman, commentis on the performance like a video blogger. He's unimpressed.

Here's the clip.


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